Thursday, February 19, 2009


PD James was someone I once read in my early youth, and the stark, dark tone of the novel left me a little scared. Or was that Ruth Rendell? It had an incident where a boy falls into a manhole and dies after long, slow days of misery. Shudder. Anyway, on a weekend, mid-morning, post-coffee wandering at Blossoms, when I saw a dark, fat volume with PD James across the front, my hand reached for it with inexorable force. The novel is called "Devices and Desires" and is proclaimed by the back page blurb as Ms. James at her finest.
Now the last book I read was Shantaram, and a more contrasting tome to that three-ring circus I could not have picked. After Shantaram's often wildly lyrical passages, PD James' austere style is something of a relief, almost. The only thing the two novels share is a strong sense of place. And can any place be more different from Bombay than Norfolk?
So in Devices and Desires, a serial killer nicknamed the Whistler is at large. But wait! Things cannot be quite so simple. In the prim little village of Lydsett, in the shadow of the nuclear power station, even more sinister events are afoot. Chief Inspector Adam Dalgliesh is not in charge of the case, interestingly.
I must commend PD James once again. A fine, restrained sense of observation, a very prim and English sense of humor, and a spare and precise style of narration. I am, once again, a fan of the murder mystery.

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